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So Which TV Food Shows Should I Watch?

Ok, so we know that FoodTV is usually playing something moderately useless... like the 34th Annual Sugar Crystal Cookoff in Vegas or the 4974676th episode of Unwrapped.

I, as many of you, watch Alton Brown's Good Eats and will watch his new show when it starts airing. I also, I'll admit it, will watch Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals if an episode is on when I turn on the TV. I loved the original Iron Chef episodes, and I watch Iron Chef America (yay Julie Powell and Jeffrey Steingarten judging in the same episode, I think it made me giddy).

But what else is there that plays regularly? I think I've seen every rerun of A Cook's Tour and I do Tivo for the new episodes of No Reservations. I've started watching Andrea Immer when I see her show on the Travel Channel.

But I keep reading these passing mentions of "I still like PBS the best." Which cooking shows that PBS airs do you like? The few I've caught I've been less than impressed with, but I think I'm just not catching the "right" ones.

Suggestions please!

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  1. My favorites are, in no particular order:

    1. Charlie Trotter's The Kitchen Sessions
    2. Whatever show Jacques Pepin is doing (latest was Fast Food, My Way)
    3. Rick Bayless' show on Mexican cooking
    4. Mark Bitman's show
    5. Barbecue University (BBQU -- not Barbecue America)
    6. America's Test Kitchen
    7. Sometimes I'm in the mood for Lidia's Family Table.

    I've found that the food line-up on PBS varies tremendously, depending on where you live.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Darren72

      Hmmm, well I'm living in San Francisco for the next 2 weeks (I know there are about 3 different channels that are all flavors of PBS here). And then I'm decamping down to Los Angeles. So, suggestions for either area would be good for me :)

      1. re: Kuisine

        I would go to the pbs.org website and see which programs are on which stations. There are a number of different PBS stations here in Chicago as well, and some shows are one one but not others.

        In the Bay Area, my guess is that the Jacques Pepin show, Barbecue University, and America's Test Kitchen are definitely on, since these are very popular shows. The others may be on also.

        Also, when I lived in the Bay Area, there was a good show on Bay TV called Bay Cafe (http://www.kron4.com/global/Category....). The host, Joey Altman, would bring a local chef on to the show to make one of his/her restaurant dishes. I liked it a lot.

        1. re: Kuisine

          The shows listed above your response are ALL on local PBS stations in SF. There's KQED, KTEH, KCSM and one from Sacto. All have much better cooking shows than ANYTHING on the Food Network...well maybe not better than Mr. Oliver.

          Dunno specifically about LA, but KCET is one PBS station down there and others from surrounding communities must exist.

          I used to love Nigella when she was on the Style Network. Just fast forward through them commercials.

        2. re: Darren72

          "I've found that the food line-up on PBS varies tremendously, depending on where you live."- This is definitely true, I've lamented over this fact many times! But, I should think that San Fran and LA would have no problems getting the "good" shows. Also, Sara Moulton should be coming to PBS soon, so you'll be able to catch that if you're interested.

          Also, I have a feeling she won't be for everyone, but I like "Living Fresh" on FitTV.

          1. re: Katie Nell

            I don't think it is a matter of getting the "good" shows. When I lived in the Bay Area, they didn't get Charlie Trotter. (Maybe they do now.) I think in Chicago we get all of the shows by Chicago chefs.

            1. re: Darren72

              By "good" shows, I mean any cooking shows... we get very few here, and I know a lot of other cities get quite a bit.

              1. re: Darren72

                Charlie Trotter used to be on PBS in the Bay Area...this was a long time ago, though. I really enjoyed that show but Charlie takes a bit of getting use to. Rick B. also. I can hardly stand to watch him, but I love his philos. and his cooking and ideas so much that I overcome the wincing.

              2. re: Katie Nell

                Honestly, I don't currently watch any cooking shows at all and haven't for some time, but I'll definitely be looking out for Sara Moulton's new show when it comes to PBS. I don't know when it starts or what the format will be, though. I always enjoyed her most on "Cooking Live," even if she did get flustered and slip up sometimes, because it was so much more three-dimensional than many one-chef-in-the-kitchen cooking shows.

                I read an interview with her (I wish I could remember where) in which she said that Food TV pushed her out and didn't renew her contract because she doesn't fit their currect ideal demographic, which is, believe it or not (well, it actually makes sense in a way) something like males 15-34 years old.

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  Yes, I got to meet her last year at a cooking demo here in KC, and she definitely tells the truth about how she feels about Food Network and a certain cook with the initials RR! She said that her new show should be airing in the Fall, and she also said that she doesn't know why FN is still airing her show... I thought that was odd.

                  1. re: Katie Nell

                    So what did she have to say about Little Miss Nauseatingly Perky??


                    1. re: Katie Nell

                      In response to Davwud:

                      She said, "I don't like her very much!" ;-) She did go on to say, though, that she is happy that people are getting into the kitchen more, regardless of what they are cooking, or something to that extent.

              3. One of my favorite all time cooking shows airs on the travel channel at wierd times, Ive seen it recently at 11 am, 2 pm 4 am etc. But deff worth watching if you can find it is Great Chefs of the World.

                1. I have to say, the only show that I both enjoy watching, and have found to have bullet proof recipes (quick, easy, not too many ingredients, casual and fancy) is Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten. I was lucky enoght to run into her at the Fancy Food Show in SF in Feb. at a Starbucks. She was their launching a line of cookware, and was so kind and gracious. It cemented her as "must watch" in my mind.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Belly DuJour

                    Good point, I don't see her show on very often so it slipped my mind, but I do like her when I see her. She reminds me of my mom. Ummm, except we never lived in the Hamptons, or had a catering business, or an absolutely ginormous garden. So really, I guess they just look a little alike and they both cook :)

                    1. re: Kuisine

                      Likewise, she looks a little bit like my mom, save the house, garden and catering business!

                    2. re: Belly DuJour

                      The OP was particulary interested in PBS shows, or shows not on Food TV. Any favorites in that category?

                      1. re: Darren72

                        With regard to PBS shows, for me, I love America's Test Kitchen, and am also a huge Sarah Moulton fan, so can't wait to see what she comes up with. I believe she is launching on PBS, no?

                    3. I enjoy "Ham on the Street" on the Food Network, very silly, and "Taste of America" on the Travel Channel which is similarly goofy. Guess I'm a sucker for cute guys and humor!

                      1. I like Martin Yan on PBS. Love to watch him chop!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: melly

                          I love the man for making it appealing to cook Chinese food and his knife skills but his dishes aren't as inspiring or good as it used to be back ten years ago.

                        2. We enjoyed the latest Jamie Oliver series on Italy.

                          Also enjoy Full on Food (don't know if it's coming back however). Always enjoyable to see what over-the-top recipe that Heston comes up with.

                          1. Is it too obvious to suggest looking out for any Julia Child reruns your local PBS station may be showing?

                            My local station shows JC Cooking with Master Chefs, which is certainly not Julia in her prime, but still worth watching, especially if you are interested in her guest chef. But if you're lucky enough to find The French Chef, or even Julia Child and Company, do watch.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: floretbroccoli

                              Did you know that some of Julia's "French Chef" shows are available on DVD? I have one disc from Netflix right now. They're an absolute hoot to watch, esp. the old black & white ones (although the food doesn't look too appetizing in b&w).

                            2. Definitely BBQU and America's Test Kitchen.

                              They're easily our favourite PBS cooking shows.

                              1. In addition to some already mentioned, I enjoy Daisy Cooks! with Daisy Martinez.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Marge

                                  Yes! Daisy is great! She's also on PBS. Wonderful recipes!

                                  Also Lydia Bastianich - any show is great.

                                  Jacques P., Julia, Rick B.,

                                  Watch out for the deadly dull and totally unimaginative cooking shows from any culinary academy. There are probably lots of good academies but none have made series I've seen.

                                  Also stay away from Weir (or is it Wier?) Cooking in the City (get it? We're cooking in....)
                                  She is verrry hard to take. Way overperky and gushy. I also like that Italian lady from Philly or somewhere back east (50ish and plain with good ideas and hardly any hype or phoniness) - Don't know the name.
                                  Rant rant rant

                                2. Also on PBS in my area (Boston) there's Ming Tsai's show which is sometimes good.

                                  6 Replies
                                    1. re: kare_raisu

                                      me too. he's really great. What happened?

                                      1. re: Belly DuJour

                                        I think he's on one of the cable channels such as Discovery Home or the like.

                                        1. re: Belly DuJour

                                          As I posted above, Simply Ming is on our local PBS channels, but I'm in Boston so this may be a local and not a national show.

                                          1. re: cheryl_h

                                            does anyone know his story...i recall dayton ohio or something. but man --take about intelligence, to me batali cant even hold a candle to him.

                                            1. re: cheryl_h

                                              Kare_raisu, IIRC he's from Ohio where his parents had a Chinese restaurant. He has an engineering degree from Yale but went back to cooking. He's spent time training in France and Japan, probably other places too. He got a Masters from Cornell in hotel management. I enjoy the shows where his mother cooks with him, she's so down to earth with her famous son.

                                              His restaurant, Blue Ginger is in Wellesley MA. We celebrated my birthday there a couple of years ago. The couple next to us were somehow involved in one of his books so he spent some time at their table talking to them before he had them moved closer to the open kitchen where he could work at the same time.

                                              On the Boston board Blue Ginger has gotten some negative reviews lately. We haven't been back - my husband objected to BG's version of tarte tatin which is just caramel sauce over an apple tart - so I have no idea if things are as bad as some chowhounders claim.

                                      2. We do not get one single cooking show on our local PBS station!

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          Write to them and complain! They're Public after all.

                                          1. re: cheryl_h

                                            I tried that... they "appreciated my input!" Doesn't hurt though, I guess!

                                          2. re: pikawicca

                                            We get 1 a day at noon onlyon PBS. Again complaining does no good, neither does witholding a contribution.

                                          3. On the Discovery Home Channel, my favorite show is Cookin' in Brooklyn. "When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Cookin'". Love Alan Harding....mixes humor with great, easy recipes, searching out the best ingredients he can find in his neighborhood.

                                            Here's a link to the schedule:


                                            1. I heard a new round of the Bittman PBS show is in production - I like him with the chefs.

                                              I currently learn the most from the Mario Batali "Molto Mario" food network repeats. I didn't see them the first time out, and I think he is terrific for depth of knowledge and emphasis on basic technique and chemical reactions that make a huge difference. Plus - since he actually has alot to say - there's not much "filler."

                                              1. cooking at home (discovery home)
                                                Lidia's Family Table (pbs)
                                                Jacques Pepin (pbs)
                                                Rick Bayless (pbs)
                                                molto mario (food tv)
                                                julia child (pbs)
                                                ming (pbs)

                                                1. I know I'm setting myself up with this one, but I just love Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares on BBC America. It's a hoot! Realistic? ... probably not. Will you learn anything new you can try at home? .... I certainly hope not. But is it entertaining? .... Most definitely. Way better then Hell's Kitchen, because at least there are real cooks, er chefs, involved. (Talk about damning with faint praise ...)

                                                  1. Am I seriously the only person that finds some redeeming qualities about a few of the Tyler Florence shows? Aside from the fact that he is hot, Tyler's Ultimate is a great show, and I think really expands on gourmet cooking and fusing together recipes from all over the world. How to Boil Water...well, let's not go there. But I find Tyler's Ultimate, a most of the Food 911 shows, and even his cookbooks are great traditional yet modern examples of contemporary cooking. Maybe that's just me...
                                                    I also enjoy Rick Bayless's Mexico, One Plate at a Time. I absolutely love eating out in Chicago, so Check, Please is usually on my agenda, and of course, America's Test Kitchen and Good Eats. But I am shocked by all the Sarah Moulton lovers---she has no personality and nothing special to offer. Her recipes never really blow me away, and she always looks like she's trying to pretend to like what she is doing and trying too hard. I don't need personalities as big as Emeril or Rachel Ray (has the women EVER watched an episode of herself? Seriously, who talks like that in real life? Someone get her to a basic speech class fast!), and don't get me started on Sandra Lee's Semi whatever it's called.
                                                    Back in the day, I love the Frugal Gourmet, and I still watch Yan Can Cook, which is just as entertaining now as it was when I was a young'n.
                                                    Perhaps the greatest cooking show, in my opinion, was on the BBC, and Discovery Home Channel for a while, but I have had trouble finding it in the past year. It is called "The Best", and they have two professional chefs and one Rachel Ray type cook, and each show has two or three general foods each chef has to make, and then they serve it to an anonymous judging panel, who then picks the best out of each category. Not only do you get to watch all the chefs' techniques and cooking styles, but they also comment on what the other chefs are doing, and I always love it when the two professional chefs tease the Rachel Ray type girl (not a fair explanation---this girl is nowhere near as annoying as Rachel), and then she blows them out of the water with her dish. Anyone know if this show is still on?
                                                    And can they please stop giving Bobby Flay and RR more shows? Please?

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: foodrocks

                                                      why is TF so mean to that blonde canadian co-host?

                                                      cooking live was one of food tv's sole shows that the emphasis was learning not et.

                                                      1. re: foodrocks

                                                        did martin yan ("yan can cook") ever have a pbs show (1980's?) some years ago called "wok with yan"? or was it a different yan?

                                                        1. re: xman887

                                                          Yan Can Cook is still on our local PBS station every Saturday morning.

                                                          Btw, the Frugal Gourmet was involved in some kind of weird sexual scandal a few years ago and his shows were ditched at that time.

                                                      2. kylie kwong is one of my favourites.

                                                        as well as reruns of two fat ladies. sigh.

                                                        and no reservations with anthony bourdain. he is my idol.

                                                        1. UNDER THE RADAR Just yesterday morning I watched two shows with good cooks who definitely are not faking it and didn't get to celebrity status. They were Sweet Dreams with Gale Gand and Good Food Fast with Ceci Carmichael. Gale Gand made crullers with Pate Choux, or chew dough, as she said, and Cici made two different fish that looked totally possible. These two probably don't meet the demographics that FoodTV is looking for, so I doubt if they are making any new shows. All they do is show ya how to cook something.

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: yayadave

                                                            I didn't know Gale Gand had a new show; I'll have to check it out. She is somewhat of a celebrity chef: She is the part-owner and pastry chef at Chicago's Tru, has won most awards and recognitions out there, and has some good cookbooks. For more info see http://www.trurestaurant.com/chefs/ga...

                                                            I love your last line -- "All they do is show ya how to cook something." Nice. :) Thanks for the heads up about these.

                                                            1. re: Darren72

                                                              Yeah, she is a celebrity chef in her own right, but not in the new TV celebrity chefdom of RR and Giada. I remember seeing Gale Gand in Bon App├ętit. I don't know if these shows are new ones or re-runs.

                                                              1. re: yayadave

                                                                I'm pretty sure Gale Gand's show is fairly old. I discovered her show by accident but from an old reference online somewhere. I saw Ceci Carmichael's show for the first time about a year ago. I don't know if it's new or not, not much buzz about it.

                                                            2. re: yayadave

                                                              Gale Gand's show isn't new but I love the fact that she just shows you how to bake certain things. I just hope FoodTV is continuing her show; I just can't stand the idea that FoodTV is not showing real food/cooking shows anymore. And I was truly disappointed that they pulled the plug on Jacques Torres' show a few years back.

                                                              1. re: chocokitty

                                                                Yeah. Jacques Torres is another one Below the Radar. He could pipe a whole tray faster than I could grease one. You had to know that he knew what he was talking about from doing it.

                                                            3. I am trying to remember the name of ac ooking show I used to watch on PBS. in the late 80's the chef/cook was a polynesian woman from Hawaii. Does anyone remeber it?